Apostle of Solitude
posted on 3/2010 By:
"Here Lies Captain: He Judged Books By Their Cover."
That's one of many possibilities for this ol' buzzard's eventual tombstone. It's a lesson I have yet to learn in nearly four decades of existence, and it's one I'll likely continue to fail all the way to my grave. For as long as there are Frank Frazetta covers to draw me in, there will always be Accidents of Birth to test the other end of my tolerance spectrum. And by God, I can't help but judge all these books by their cover. I understand in the case of records it's the music that obviously matters, but can you honestly tell me you can listen to Don't Break the Oath without thinking of that iconic cover? I suppose that means I'm a man dominated by the visual, and I'm sure the fellers in Apostle of Solitude are already sick to DEATH of expounding on the choice of artwork adorning the front of their second full-length, but it's something worth mentioning because it is so very...different. And that's precisely the point: it falls waaay outside what's considered "conventional" for a heavy metal album cover, so in that regard the band has certainly succeeded in separating themselves from their peers. I happen to be of the group that feels the "Express for Men Photo-shoot Gone Terribly Awry" isn't exactly the best representation of the caliber of high-quality heavy doom metal that's under the hood (especially the European version featuring a lip-locked version of the two), but then I ain't the one calling the shots. And honestly, after spending a few weeks with Last Sunrise, the cover has strangely become more...reasonable. The album nearly feels like a movie because of how seamlessly these tunes flow into one another, and the musical tale at its core runs a gamut of grief, so the thought of representing the entire work with two protagonists standing anguished with guns-to-the-head doesn't seem so awkward to me anymore. Über dramatic, perhaps, but not nearly as peculiar.
But enough about the cover art.
For those unfamiliar with this relatively obscure Indianapolis act, they sweat and bleed heavier-than-thou doom metal. Doom cut from a similar cloth as fellow Indianans, The Gates of Slumber, as well as bands such as Finland's Fall of the Idols and Pennsylvania's Argus, so expect a fairly large slab of traditional, galloping heavy metal to be cut into the classic Vitus-stock. The band's previous effort, 2008's Sincerest Misery, was certainly no stranger to a cheerless atmosphere, but this record turns up the lugubrio-meter to a head-hanging level-11. The self-titled "intro" slugs from the gate as a 4-minute funeral march with enough heft to drive coffin splinters under your nails and jumps directly into the smooth and heavy rumble of "Acknowledging the Demon" -- a tune packed with somber little lead flourishes that eventually melts directly into one of the album's heaviest hitters: the instrumental "Other Voices." When this tune first hit my speakers I had to skip back a few times just to fully smother my dome in its crushingly heavy birth. Vocalist/guitarist Chuck Brown has to belt out a T. Warrior "UNGH" just to be able to handle the heft of the opening riff, and that's a motif employed multiple times as these nine tunes bend and sway from stark mellowness to cudgeling cranial contusions (the 2:39 point of "Hunter Sick Rapture" is another heart-stopper). The 9-minute "Letting Go of the Wheel" is a pretty gray-day's worth of drudging, mellow strumming before the embers of a snaky lead eventually usher in some hulking heft at its 7:30 peak. And the crown jewel for yours truly strikes with the outstanding "December Drives Me to Tears." This whopper starts off rather unassumingly with a bit more of a "rock" feel to its dark & smoky opening, but the bruising riff that hits at 4:00 is a deadly omen for how pulverizing the tune becomes during its last minute-and-a-half, leaving the listener broken, beaten and damn-well ready for more.
And as true as those first six cuts strike, the album continues to swing upward from there. "Sister Cruel" has arguably the catchiest chorus and strongest evidence of fiery lead-guitar wizardry towards its finale, and the album closes out with two numbers that admirably walk the line between despairing doom and chugging/hammering fist-in-the-face-of-all-you-hate heavy-goddamned-METAL with "Frontiers of Pain" and the excellent, "Coldest Love." Both feature the swiftest measures to be found on Last Sunrise, with the previous breaking things up with an Entombed-esque hammer at its midpoint and the latter closing the door on the story with a ridiculously galloping span that'll have the hairs on your arms standing at full, saluting attention.
But that's not all...
Both the US and European releases feature three different cover-tunes tacked to the end of the record. The Profound Lore/US version weaves a beautifully dirty version of The Obsessed's "Streetside" and very Apostle-y translations of The Misfits "Astro Zombies" and "Mary and Child" from Born Against (!). The Eyes Like Snow/European release features covers of Thin Lizzy's "The Emerald," Frost's "Procreation of the Wicked" and The Misfits "Where Eagles Dare." -- a great way to close out an already excellent 50+ minutes of heavy doom metal.
All this babble and I didn't even get a chance to spotlight the powerful force behind Corey Webb's stellar drumming and Chuck's (once again) very impassioned singing. I guess that only further demonstrates how great an album I feel Last Sunrise truly is. As it stands, this is certainly my favorite doom record to drop in 2010 so far, and it'll certainly be interesting to see how it stacks up against a few other monsters expected to hit later this year (looking at you, Orodruin, Place of Skulls and 40-Watt Sun.) If you're a fan of traditional doom and aren't already familiar with these dudes, I suggest you swallow whatever trepidation the cover might deliver (I said "might," Solitude-ians, "might!") and let this brooding, walloping album whip you to the dirt. You'll be happy you did.
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